3rd Issue of 2008 No,148

An Investigation of the Identity and Social Relationship of Young Burakumin

Part II

UCHIDA Ryushi Researcher, BLHRRI

2-7 Relationship to Involvement in the Movement and to Knowledge of Buraku Issues

This survey inquires into the respondents’ level of knowledge regarding Buraku issues, on a number of points. I calculate the respondent’s knowledge index by summing the 10 responses,[1] with “Know well” assigned a 4, “Know a little” assigned a 3, “Hardly know” a 2, and “Don’t know at all” a 1. The higher the knowledge index, the more the respondent knows about a variety of Buraku issues.

The survey also inquires into the respondents’ level of participation in the Buraku liberation movement, in a number of different activities. There are 11 different activities provided on the survey, and I assign an experience index by summing the responses with “I have participated” returning a 1 and “I have not participated” returning a 0. The higher this index, the more experience one has in the liberation movement, in a variety of different venues. The correlation coefficient between the knowledge index and the experience index is 0.515 (p<0.01), which is fairly high. A lot of experience in the movement is strongly tied to a lot of knowledge about Buraku and human rights issues.

Table 9. Correlation Coefficient between Knowledge Index, Experience Index and Identity Variables

Positive  identity Discomfort with discrimination Feelings of Commonality
Knowledge Index(N=193) 0.350 ** 0.273 ** 0.065  
Experience Index(N=191) 0.358 ** 0.222 ** -0.073  
** The correlation coefficient is significant in 1% level.

Table 9 shows the correlation coefficient between the identity parameters and the knowledge index and the experience index. As for “Positive Identity,” the more one has participated in the movement, the more they know about the movement, the more positive their evaluation of their identity.

On the other hand, similar to “Positive Identity,” the more one participates in the movement, the more one knows, the higher is one’s “Discomfort with Discrimination.” The potential reason for that is that an intimate knowledge of Buraku issues, and a high level of participation in the movement, makes one more sensitively aware of the reality of discrimination. We can interpret this as demonstrating a strong correlation between the level of knowledge and the awareness of the presence and effects of discrimination.

Table 10 shows the correlation coefficients between an awareness of the presence and effects of discrimination and the knowledge and experience indices, an analysis necessary to confirm the above assertion. All demonstrate a meaningful correlation: the strength of awareness of the presence and effects of discrimination, the amount of knowledge, and the level of experience in the movement are all tied to each other.

Table 10. Correlation Coefficient between Awareness of Discrimination and Knowledge and Experience Indices

Knowledge Index Experience Index
Getting employment -0.329 ** -0.255 **
(N=194) (N=193)
Love with non-Buraku person -0.353 ** -0.216 **
(N=194) (N=193)
Marriage with Non-Buraku person -0.345 ** -0.176 *
(N=196)   (N=195)  
** The correlation coefficient is significant in 1% level.
* The correlation coefficient is significant in 5% level.
※ 1 = Often, 2 = Sometimes, 3 = Neither Often nor Never, 4=rarely, 5 = never

It is certainly the case that the more one knows of Buraku issues, the more he or she understands the severity of discrimination, which is a potential explanation for the increase in the discomfort with discrimination for Burakumin youth. However, if we compare the correlation coefficients for “Positive Identity” and “Discomfort with Discrimination,” both the knowledge index and the experience index are more tightly tied to “Positive Identity.” While limited by the possibility of prompting “Discomfort with discrimination,” we can say that sharing knowledge and participating in the movement play an important role in the formation of a positive identity.

2-8  Relationship with Friends and Family who Participate in the Movement

In examining the relationship with friends and family who participate in the movement, only having friends who participate in the movement appears to be connected with “Positive Identity”; the rest show no relation (table 12).

Table 11. Correlation Coefficient between Family and Friends Participating in the Movement and Identity Variables (N=182)

Positive  identity Discomfort withdiscrimination Feelings of Commonality
Father 0.028   0.095   -0.031  
Mother 0.016 0.098 -0.092
Grandmother or Grandfather 0.074 -0.183 * 0.044
Sister or Brother 0.086 -0.004 -0.034
Wife or Husband 0.076 -0.064 0.075
Relative -0.035 -0.049 0.023
Friend 0.238 ** 0.011   0.043  
** The correlation coefficient is significant in 1% level.
* The correlation coefficient is significant in 5% level.
※ 1 = Yes, 0 = No

We confirm that this kind of tendency is important for those who have not participated in youth activities. Looking at those without such experience, we see that the correlation coefficient with “Positive Identity” is 0.295, considerably higher than that for the entire sample. This allows us to say that having a friend who participates in the movement plays, for those who do not participate in activities of the youth group, a role in their positive identity evaluation.

2-9  Relationship with Measures for Buraku Liberation

Table 12 shows the correlation coefficients between the identity parameters and what measures the respondent feels are necessary for Buraku liberation.

For “Discomfort with Discrimination,” we can see that those with high levels of discomfort tend to advocate “D Changes to local and national politics,” “B Provide employment and job stability for Burakumin.” Furthermore, for “Positive Identity” we can see that those who positively evaluate their identity tend to advocate “A Actively encourage Burakumin to come out.”

Furthermore, those with strong expressions of “Discomfort with Discrimination” and “Positive Identity” characteristically do not advocate “Doing nothing and letting things run their course.” To say this another way, there is a tendency, if there is no discomfort with discrimination, or no positive evaluation of identity, to think nothing special need necessarily be done.

Table 12 Correlation Coefficient between Measures for Buraku Liberation and Identity Variables (N=178)

Positive  identity Discomfort with discrimination Feelings of Commonality
Actively encourage Burakumin to come out 0.179 * 0.026   0.096
Provide employment and job stability for Burakumin 0.047 0.193 ** 0
Widely grapple with issues of diversity, human rights, and culture. 0.069 0.152 * 0.001
Changes to local and national politics 0.01 0.244 ** -0.054
Do not anything at all and leave it -0.205 ** -0.285 ** -0.115
There is already no discrimination -0.038   -0.186 * -0.156
** The correlation coefficient is significant in 1% level.
* The correlation coefficient is significant in 5% level.
※ 1 = Yes, 0 = No

3   Analysis of Identity Types

If we use the two parameters consolidated in the previous section, “Positive Identity” and “Discomfort with Discrimination,” we can sort those surveyed into four ideological categories. Namely, a “positive-uneasy type” in which “Positive Identity” and “Discomfort with Discrimination” are both strong; a “positive type” in which “Positive Identity” is strong, “Discomfort with Discrimination” weak; an “uneasy type” in which “Positive Identity” is weak, “Discomfort with Discrimination” strong; and a “weak type” in which “Positive Identity” and “Discomfort with Discrimination” are both weak. We can then sort the respondents, using the two parameters of “Positive Identity” and “Discomfort with Discrimination,” into four categories, according to a K-means operation (cluster analysis) (figure 2, table 13).

Figure 2 A plot of a cluster analysis of the two parameters, “Positive Identity” and “Discomfort with Discrimination”

Table 13 Results of the Cluster Analysis of the two parameters, “Positive Identity” and “Discomfort with Discrimination” (N=197)

Cluster Average
Cluster No of People
Positive Identity Discomfort with Discrimination
1Positive, Uneasy Type 95 48.2% 0.43938 0.53401
2Weak Type 33 16.8% -0.74301 -1.19512
3Uneasy Type 34 17.3% -1.36886 0.76736
4Positive Type 35 17.8% 0.83769 -1.06806

The resulting categorization of clusters is: “positive-uneasy type” (48.2%), “weak type” (16.8%), “uneasy type” 17.3%), “positive type” (17.8%). Those with both strong “Positive Identity” and “Discomfort with Discrimination” comprise nearly half of the respondents.

Table 14 shows the characteristics of the different identity categories according to different attributes. The “positive-uneasy type” is characterized by a higher level of education and a richness of knowledge about Buraku issues and experience in the movement. The “weak type” has relatively little knowledge about Buraku issues, and little experience in the movement. The “uneasy type” is older and has a high education level, but has relatively little knowledge of Buraku issues. The “positive type” is younger, with a lower education level.

Table 14 Characteristics of Identity Categories

Age Education Level Knowledge Index Experience Index
Ave Value Freq Ave Value Freq Ave Value Freq Ave Value Freq
Positive Uneasy Type
25.0 94 12.8 93 32.8 95 3.7 95
Weak Type
25.0 33 12.6 33 27.9 33 2.6 33
Uneasy Type
26.3 34 12.9 33 28.1 33 3.6 34
Positive Type
21.2 35 10.8 34 28.9 35 2.9 35
24.6 196 12.5 193 30.5 196 3.4 197
F Value
5.322 ** 7.612 ** 7.612 ** 9.436 **
** Significant to 1% value

Figure 3 shows the relationship among the different identity categories, based on the above analysis of characteristics. First, we can see that participating in the local movement and its activities, as well as having Dowa education in school help form a “Positive Identity” for youth and high school students. However, we can also see that the proportion of the “positive-uneasy type” and the “uneasy type” grow as age and education level increase. As I said in the previous section, those people who have higher than a high school education inevitably experience moving to a different area. There they have greater contact with non-Burakumin, who have little understanding of Buraku issues. Furthermore, we can see that as age increases, knowledge of a variety of issues also becomes richer. In the process, they learn to take being Burakumin positively, but at the same time the “positive-uneasy type” that feels discomfort also increases in number. On the other hand, the “uneasy type” has less knowledge about Buraku issues compared to the “positive-uneasy type,” and therefore has little basis for a positive appraisal of identity.

Finally, the “weak type,” which has little knowledge and experience in the movement, has a relatively thin awareness of self as Burakumin.

Figure 3 – The Relation among Identity Types

The ability to spot discrimination is also the ability to understand the social situation in which Burakumin are placed. In a society with discrimination, the uneasy thought of potentially being the object of discrimination is natural. In response, supporting a “Positive Identity” is important. Practically, measures are necessary that actively spread those elements deeply linked to a “Positive Identity” explored in the previous section (namely, people with whom one can speak about Buraku issues, a positive perception of the liberation movement, a lot of knowledge about Buraku issues, the formation of a community to which one feels connected).

4   The Organization of Perception, and a Few Suggestions

In conclusion, I would like to offer a few suggestions for further research based on what this survey and its analysis has revealed.

4-1 Discomfort with discrimination is large

To no small degree, this survey makes it evident that there are people feeling discomfort with discrimination. Awareness of the realities of discrimination is strong, particularly of marriage discrimination, which over 70% of respondents thought happens “frequently” or “occasionally.” Over 30% of respondents have either encountered or directly experienced discrimination. This type of awareness of the presence and effects of discrimination is strongly tied to “discomfort with discrimination.”

4-2 The Importance of the Liberation Movement

It is clear that the identity of Burakumin youth is tied to their perception of the Buraku liberation movement. I was not able to consider this point in great detail in this paper, but looking at the simple aggregate results, we see that for many Burakumin, the Buraku liberation movement is not perceived as somebody else’s issue, and has some relation to the respondent him or herself.[2] We need to get rid of the negative perception of and prejudices against the Buraku liberation movement and instead actively promote its positive aspects and the social contributions it has thus far provided.

4-3 Human Relations – The Importance of Friends

Having close friends close by with whom one can talk about Buraku issues is closely linked to having a positive identity evaluation. Having friends who are in the movement is particularly closely linked to a positive identity. We need to help cultivate people who can actively talk about Buraku issues, be they Burakumin or not.

At the same time, it is necessary to foster relationships so that everyday friends could offer support in the case of someone being discriminated against.

4-4  A Strong Sense of Community

If we just look at those living in Buraku areas, a strong sense of community for the Buraku area is linked to a positive identity evaluation. It is important to engage in community building that is attractive to young people, and in order to foster such community building, we need to increase the opportunities for youth involvement in the community building process.

At the same time, the results of this survey indicate that one fourth of Burakumin live outside of Buraku areas. We also need, then, to build a network that goes beyond neighborhood boundaries and includes Burakumin youth who, for whatever reason, do not live in a Buraku area.

4-5  Experience in the Movement, Knowledge of the Issues

Having a lot of experience in the movement, as well as a lot of knowledge of Buraku issues, are tied to having a positive identity evaluation. It is necessary to provide a variety of opportunities for people to participate in the movement and to make knowledge their own. To that end, we need measures that go hand in hand with special youth topics and needs, and we need to foster supportive relationships. We also need to re-examine the various activities of our movements, and base them on the specific characteristics and needs of local communities.

Above, I provided an analysis of the identity of Burakumin youth. To put it directly, if we do not implement measures to invigorate, in a multi-faceted manner, the various factors examined above that are tied to a positive identity, we face the undeniable possibility of the identity evaluation of Buraku children and youth falling when faced with a discriminatory society.

In recent years there has been ongoing debate over how to define the category of “Burakumin.” There has been an increased flow in and out of Buraku neighborhoods due to social changes, and a rise in Buraku/non-Buraku marriages.[3] As a result, the definition posed by Inoue Kiyosih (1950), namely of “place,” “bloodline or genealogy,” and “work,” no longer suffices (Uchida 2000). Buraku discrimination, which is not based on differences discernible by eye, is now characterized by “using one of three symbols – particular place of origin, working in a particular job, living in a particular neighborhood – to hold in disdain another person, independent of whether that person actually has ‘attributes’ related to those symbols” (Yoda 2005:22). That is to say, it is premature to conclude that there is no value in examining Buraku identity, a fact corroborated by the findings of this paper on the relationship between “Discomfort with Discrimination” and social relations. It is undeniable that “the risk of discrimination is higher for those who do have the related ‘attributes,’ and that this has a strong relationship with identity formation and structure of the involved parties” (ibid.: 22).

Beyond what this paper has uncovered about identity evaluation, there is still much research on Burakumin identity, some of which overlaps with ethnic studies, as of yet left untouched. For example: What role does a social identity consolidated along group lines play for the assembly and mobilization of a minority / what role has it played? How is Burakumin identity consolidated for individuals, what meaning does that identity have for those individuals / how has it been consolidated, what meaning has it held? How is this social identity appraised by society / how has it been appraised? Finally, how are these questions related to changes in the structure of Japanese society? I would be pleased if this paper could serve as fodder for the development of such research.

(Acknowledgement) I would like to thank the Youth Group of the Nara Prefecture Buraku Liberation League, who provided me with a valuable opportunity, and to all those who took the time to respond to my survey. Without this support, this analysis would not have been possible. Thank you very much.

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Attributes of Respondents

  1. Sex: Approximately same number of woman and men. Men comprised 52%, women 48%, about half each.
  2. Age: Average age was 25. Youngest was 15, oldest 37. 23.9% were 15-19; 24.9% 20-24; 26.4% 25-29; 24.9% 30 or higher. Five-year increments occupied approximately the same percentages.
  3. Location of residence: Sakurai, Nara, Gosho comprised more than half. 21.3% from Sakurai, 19.3% from Nara, 16.3% from Gosho.
  4. Education level: High school graduate is most prevalent at 26.2%. College graduate was 17.3%, community college 13.4%, still in high school 16.3%.
  5. Marital status: Slightly less than 30% of the respondents are married. Single people – 65.8%; Married 29.7%. Despite the young age range, 3.5% are divorced.
  6. Buraku residence/birthplace: One quarter live outside Buraku areas. More than 80% were born in Buraku areas. 71.3% presently live in a Buraku, 24.8% outside. If we look at age, 45.7% of those 30 or older live outside a Buraku, close to half. 83.7% were born in a Buraku; 16.3% were either born outside of a Buraku or do not know.
  7. Parent’s origins: Respondents with two Buraku parents make up more than half. 81.2% of fathers are from Buraku areas, 14.4% from outside, 3.0% don’t know. 75.7% of the mothers are from Buraku areas, 19.8% from outside, 3.5% don’t know. In 52.5% of parent couples, both parents are from Buraku areas, in 31.7% at least one is, in 13.9% either neither parent is from a Buraku or the parents’ origins are unknown.

[1] The items include “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” “Douwa Measures,” “Ishikawa Kazuo-san (The Sayama Case),” “Incident of the List of Buraku Neighborhood Names,” “Liberation Song,” “Discriminatory Posts on Internet Bulletin Boards,” “The Novel, ‘A River without a Bridge’.”

[2] As opposed to “It has no relation to me,” the answers “Strongly Disagree” and “Disagree” comprised 65.3% of responses of questions regarding perceptions of the Buraku liberation movement.

[3] In urban branches in particular, there is a tendency for those among the upper classes in Buraku areas to leave the area in search of better living conditions, or to continue their education or for a job. On the other hand, those who are face more difficult living conditions tend to move into public housing within Buraku areas.

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